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Voices Raised

Masculinity: The Dominant Narrative

By Caleb Negron '18

PAVE, Peers Advocating for Violence Education, is a student group of peer educators that is an extension of the Dean of Students office. We are defined by our commitment to educating the undergraduate population at UD on instances of power-based personal violence and how these instances can be avoided. While this is no easy feat, since our beginning in 2013, PAVE has developed several programs that engage students to consider the effect that sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and stalking can have on our community and the steps that everyone can take to help combat this widespread problem. With 30 active members, 3 interactive presentations, 12 ongoing projects, and opportunities for students to participate in one-on-one dialogue, PAVE has done more than ever before in the fight towards ending power-based personal violence on our campus. 

“You are soft.” “Man up.” “Grow a pair.” “Gay!” “Don’t be a p***y.” These are a few of the many degrading words men and boys grow up listening to throughout their lives. They are stripped from acknowledging their own emotions and forced to put a mask on everyday just to fit in. As a man, I felt the pressures from societal those expectations. Whether in school, home, or social, I was always reminded about what was required to be a “real man.”  I knew what it was like to hold back tears and pain so I would not be seen as inferior around other men. It was not until my involvement in PAVE and the interactions with students, faculty, and staff at UD that I developed a greater awareness of these expectations. PAVE, especially, has been the major contributor to my knowledge on sexual violence education, and through all the presentations covering bystander intervention, consent, stalking, etc., I have developed a new lens on how I see the world around me. I am grateful for the Dean of Students office, SGA, Human Rights Center, and the Women's Center for co-sponsoring the trip because it was the training that really helped me realize how dehumanizing these expectations were.

Masculinity-Group.pngThe Dominant Narrative of what it means to be a man is simply not true. It is the widely accepted narrative that puts men everywhere in a state of constant stress and dissatisfaction. Men and boys are expected to show dominance and power while carrying a very stoic personality. Men and boys shame themselves when they feel they are not good enough or “man” enough. Everything is a competition and men are expected to reinforce the Dominant Narrative by encouraging others to fulfill the expectations and shame others who do not.  But the reality is that the societal mold of what it means to be a “real man” cannot fit every man. The mold is too small and unrealistic and there are demoralizing implications for those who are out casted for not fitting in. When a man does not fit the character within the Dominant Narrative, they are susceptible to anxiety, depression, insecurities, extreme loneliness, and suicide. These symptoms of the culture are only at the tip of the iceberg, and it is critical to acknowledge that these implications exist when discussing masculinity.

One of the biggest takeaways from the conference was the ability to put my experiences and the experiences of other men into words. Every man is aware of his emotions, but he has been so socialized that he does not know how to effectively verbalize what they are. My view on masculinity changed significantly by simply hearing stories from other men and relating to them. They become Counter Stories and challenge the Dominant Narrative. The Counter Stories invite authenticity and push people to recognize their own values and own them with confidence. I realized how ludicrous the expectations were, and I was able to take ownership over my own story as a man. I learned that a real man is aware of his own emotions and understands that empathy and love is not feminine or “not manly”; It's human. Unhealthy masculinity affects everyone and not just men. The sooner the culture realizes that, the better everybody’s lives will be.

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